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In the Museum's eighth year of operation, national visitation was lower than that of the previous year, although there were fluctuations within categories.

Current tourism trends show that visitation is in decline for all domestic and national tourism. Visitation to the Museum was also influenced by seasonal fluctuations that brought peaks in school holiday months and downturns in between, especially during the winter months. The year's visitation was marked by:

  • a decline in visitors to the permanent galleries, which reflects an overall decline in visitation in Canberra
  • continued strong visitation to both temporary and travelling exhibitions, usually well above estimates
  • continued steady visitation by schools, with numbers close to those of previous years
  • a slightly lower level of attendance at public programs due to decreased levels of activity
  • a steep decline in functions and venue hire by external users, probably linked to the economic downturn.

Web visitation has grown from 1,521,926 last year to 2,533,138. This growth is due to ongoing development of new content and to the release of a substantially upgraded version of the Museum's collection database.

National visitation numbers, 2001–09
Financial year total visitation

Financial year Visitation
2001–02 903,400
2002–03 825,000
2003–04 820,200
2004–05 666,200
2005–06 770,601
2006–07 945,210
2007–08 1,007,856
2008–09 941,361

Breakdown of visitation numbers, 2005–09

Location 2005–06 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09
Permanent exhibitions 428,123 418,790 393,141 366,541
Temporary exhibitions 91,101 105,710 89,348 95,417
Travelling exhibitions 63,762 248,641 372,407 344,512
Public programs and events 69,061 53,097 33,297 29,649
Schools 83,780 86,444 87,266 86,457
venue hire
34,234 32,528 32,397 18,785
Total 770,601 945,210 1,007,856 941,361
Monthly visitation numbers to permanent exhibitions, 2008–09
A column graph indicating the monthly visitation numbers to permanent exhibitions, 2008–09. Jul 38,456, Aug 21,566, Sep 32,415, Oct 35,311, Nov 27,405, Dec 31,685, Jan 40,261, Feb 23,731, Mar 29,114, Apr 33,414, May 23,389, Jun 26,195.
Monthly visitation numbers to temporary exhibitions, 2008–09
A column graph indicating the monthly visitation numbers to temporary exhibitions, 2008–09. Jul 0 (gallery refurbishment), Aug 4,974, Sep 12,890, Oct 12,645, Nov 0 (gallery refurbishment), Dec 6,830, Jan 15,453, Feb 12,433, Mar 18,204, Apr 0 (gallery refurbishment), May 0 (gallery refurbishment), Jun 11,988.
Monthly visitation numbers to travelling exhibitions, 2008–09
A column graph indicating the monthly visitation numbers to travelling exhibitions, 2008–09. Jul 125,793, Aug 39,796, Sep 17,921, Oct 26,333, Nov 18,909, Dec 10,822, Jan 31,640, Feb 12,468, Mar 11,349, Apr 19,393, May 14,843, Jun 15,245.
Monthly participation in public programs, 2008–09
A column graph indicating the monthly participation in public programs, 2008–09. Jul 2822, Aug ,082, Sep 1938, Oct 3497, Nov 998, Dec 4293, Jan 4036, Feb 653, Mar 4291, Apr 2423, May 1035, Jun 1581.
Monthly participation in externally organised functions/venue hire,
A column graph indicating the monthly participation in externally organised functions/venue hire, 2008–09. Jul 1,340, Aug 1,345, Sep 1,945, Oct 2,052, Nov 3,127, Dec 2,971, Jan 320, Feb 1,448, Mar 1,510, Apr 497, May 1,370, Jun 860.
Breakdown of total 2008–09
Museum visitation by visitor category
A doughnut chart indicating the breakdown of total 2008–09 Museum visitation by visitor category. Permanent exhibitions 39 per cent, temporary exhibitions 10 per cent, public programs 3 per cent, schools 9 per cent, functions/venue hire 2 per cent, travelling exhibitions 37 per cent.

Monthly web visitation figures, 2008–09

Month Total visitation
July 146,339
August 153,422
September 180,134
October 209,620
November 210,323
December 161,893
January 187,911
February 216,731
March 247,669
April 241,827
May 298,347
June 279,322
Total 2008–09 2,533,138

Audience and visitor research

The Museum actively seeks comments from visitors by conducting exit interviews, commissioning audience research and inviting visitors to provide written feedback through Museum feedback forms. Informal comments are also noted by visitor services hosts and public programs staff. The Museum enters visitor feedback data into a database that enables the analysis of visitor demographics, attitudes and behaviour over time. The Museum has been conducting exit interviews with visitors since it opened in 2001. General exit interviews were conducted with 400 visitors this year, increasing the total number of interviews now held in the Museum's database to 18,600.

In 2008–09 the visitor age groups most strongly represented were 55–59 years, 60–64 years and 70 or over (12 per cent each). Thirty-seven per cent of visitors were from Canberra or its close neighbour, Queanbeyan; 57 per cent were from elsewhere in Australia, in particular Sydney and regional New South Wales; and 6 per cent were from overseas. The proportion of repeat visitors was 63 per cent overall. Forty-three per cent of visitors interviewed during the year had visited the Museum three or more times.

Museum visitors have continued to indicate high satisfaction levels. Of the 400 visitors interviewed during the year, 95 per cent said they were 'satisfied' or 'very satisfied' with their experience. When invited to comment on what they liked most about the Museum, visitors most commonly mentioned the architecture, the level of interest and information overall, and the variety of exhibitions. The only aspect of the Museum to elicit substantial negative comment was the 'confusing' layout (11 per cent). Seventy-five per cent of visitors agreed that they had learned something new and interesting about Australian history during their visit.

The Museum undertook several small-scale program evaluations during the year. These included studies of visitors attending the Australia Day Family Festival (50 interviews) in addition to the exhibitions Utopia: The Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye and Darwin (50 interviews each).

The Museum trialled a new visitor counting system using thermal counters, which use infra-red sensors to detect the thermal heat generated by a person passing through its field of view. This system is more accurate than the original beam counters installed when the Museum opened in 2001. The Museum spent 12 months assessing visitation figures from both systems, and plans to move to the more accurate thermal system at the commencement of the 2009–10 financial year.